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Looking for the right start to the day? Here are three times on selecting your cereal. (PHOTO: Flickr/mroach)

3 tips for navigating the cereal aisle and choosing a healthier option

Have you ever walked down the cereal aisle and felt completely overwhelmed by all the options?

You stroll down the aisle and see a "Mom's Best Raisin Bran" cereal box – you know, the one made from recycled paper, depicting wildlife and informing you that their cereal is made with "whole grain oats" and "no high fructose corn syrup." Simple and honest ingredients, they say. That cereal looks and sounds really healthy, you think, and pleased with your decision, you put the cereal in your basket and continue grocery shopping.

How frustrated would you be if you found out that the cereal you chose has six grams MORE added sugar than a serving of Lucky Charms? Pretty darn frustrated. You'd probably feel deceived, too. After all, you had the best intentions to eat healthier and serve your children a healthy breakfast! You thought you were making a thoughtful choice.

To outsmart the marketers, here are my top three tips for choosing a healthier cold cereal:

1. Read the ingredient list

The ingredient list will reveal a lot about the nutritional quality of the cereal.

Is sugar, brown rice syrup, maltose, fructose, sucrose, maple syrup, corn syrup, honey or invert sugar listed? Are there flavors and preservatives, like phosphates, listed? The more sugar and the more processed the ingredients, the better off you are finding an alternative.

Too much added sugar (more than 25 grams per day) can increase stress, anxiety, energy crashes and weight gain. No thank you!

2. Read the nutrition label

Pay attention to serving size. Many cereal labels may look reasonably healthy ... until you realize that those 200 calories and seven grams of sugar are only for one-third cup serving! Most of us eat more than one-third of a cup of cereal, so choose one that packs a nutritional punch for each serving.

Limit added sugars and choose a high-fiber (four grams or more per serving) for better heart health, mood and weight management.

3. Choose less processed items

The less processed, the better. Processed cereals have more sugar, sodium and preservatives than is good for us.

So, what cold cereals should you choose? Ones that are high in fiber, high in protein, low in sugar, low in salt and minimally processed. My top cereal picks that check those boxes:

Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal, Golden Flax

  • This cereal has eight grams of protein, no added sugar and six grams of fiber per serving.
  • All the ingredients are organic: wheat, barley, flax seeds, millet, lentils, soybeans, spelt and sea salt.

Alpen No Added Sugar Muesli

  • This cereal has six grams of protein, no added sugar and five grams of fiber per serving.
  • The raisins not only provide sweetness, but fiber and iron.

Kashi Go Lean Vanilla Gram Clusters

  • This cereal has 11 grams of protein and nine grams of fiber (wow!) to keep you full until lunch.
  • This cereal does have nine grams of sugar for those who do have a sweet tooth, but the fiber will help manage your blood sugar better.

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